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Early Manufactures


Transcription contributed by Arne H Trelvik 27 May 2003

The History of Warren County Ohio
Part IV Township Histories
Hamilton Township by Horace Clinton
(Chicago, IL: W. H. Beers Co, 1882; reprint, Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, 1992)



Among the many inconveniences to which the early settlers were subjected, perhaps none were more keenly felt than the want of grist and saw mills. The very earliest settlers had to go to Columbia to mill, packing their grist or corn meal on horseback, by paths through the forest. Families were often out of meal, and compelled to live for days on hominy. A little later, a man named Waldsmith erected a mill at Indian Riffle, near Camp Dennison. This mill was constructed on some kind of a flat-boat, anchored out in the river, the current of the river supplying the motive power. It ground corn only. This shortened the distance measurably, and was, no doubt, hailed with joy. In the 1806, Piercy Kitchel built a flouring mill on the west bank of the Little Miami River, where Greely’s mill now stands. This was making rapid progress in the right direction, and since then mills have been erected at other points on the west bank of the Miami, convenient of access to the people of Hamilton Township, although there are none at present within the limits of the township.

The first saw-mill in the township was built by Theophilus Simonton, the neighbors contributing largely in its completion by volunteer labor in digging the trench some three-fourths of a mile that conveyed the water from the main stream to the mill. This mill was built about the year 1812, and located on the creek near where Simonton first settled. This stream was named Conococheague Creek by the early settlers from Pennsylvania. At a later date, Samuel B. Walker’s sons built a saw-mill on the same stream, on the farm now owned by A. J. Walker. These mills were what might be termed wet-weather mills, as it was only during comparatively wet times that there was sufficient water to furnish the necessary motive power, and were, under the most favorable circumstances, of very limited capacity; yet to these early settlers they were a great convenience. Since then many other mills, mostly steam, have been located at different points throughout the township until the greater part of the saw timber has been converted into lumber. In the early times, and indeed, for many years, salt was an expensive article, and was with much difficulty


obtained. Farmers would frequently combine together and load a wagon with corn, take it to Cincinnati, and return with a barrel of salt, the proceeds of the load of corn. About the year 1803 or 1804, one Peter Wilson, having discovered that certain springs, some half mile south of the present site of Maineville, possessed, in some degree, a saline quality, and being furnished with some capital by Gen. Lytle, undertook the manufacture of this article of household necessity. He sunk some three or four wells to a considerable depth, built a furnace, and placed in it a number of kettles, and proceeded to collect the water and boil it down, but the water proving too weak to make the enterprise a paying one, Wilson soon abandoned it. The furnaces and kettles, however, remained for a number of years, and neighboring farmers for quite a distance would frequently camp there and boil down the water from the wells, and in this way procure small quantities of salt for their own use.

The manufacture of whisky was not wholly neglected by the early inhabitants. Simonton, who was the pioneer in saw-mills, was also the pioneer in distilling whisky. At an early date he erected a small copper still, just west of where Dr. Donough’s house now stands, and commenced the manufacture of whisky, and this he continued for some years. The capacity of the still was from sixteen to eighteen gallons per day. He also put up a small corn-cracker to grind corn for the use of the still. The drinking of whisky was almost a universal habit in those days, and Simonton’s still-house was the scene of many a wild gathering, the neighbors meeting there to talk over the events of the times and enjoy a social drink together. About the same time, a man named Cunningham erected a small distillery near where Thompson Spence now lives, but did not continue long. At a much later date, Vandervort’s flouring-mill, at Foster’s Crossings, was converted into a distillery, and turned out, from time to time, considerable quantities of whisky.

We will now turn to what must have been a much more profitable branch of early manufacturing, and this was the manufacture of shoe leather. A tannery was opened for business about the year 1835. This tannery was located one-half mile north of Murdoch, on the farm now owned by F. Bateman. The farm was at that time owned by Jonathan Hopkinson, who built the tannery and conducted the business. The manufacture of leather proved a valuable addition to the neighborhood. Hides of cattle were tanned on the shares, one-half for tanning, and thus the farmers were enabled to supply their families with winter shoes at a small expenditure of money. Mr. Hopkinson and son continued the business for a number of years; but the establishment finally succumbed to the inevitable fate in store for all country tan-yards.

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This page created 27 May 2003 and last updated 06-Dec-2008
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